There are probably hundreds of reasons why a love for reading is one of the greatest gifts a child can receive. It helps to develop an understanding of language and sparks imagination. Contributes to good concentration, social and communication skills, offers a wide variety of knowledge, reduces stress and can contribute to healthy self-esteem. And perhaps most importantly: It is fun – good old-fashioned, long-lasting fun without any screens!
In recent years audiobooks have gained in popularity to an extent, that audiobook sales have recently surpassed the sales of ebooks. This is particularly true for children and since audiobooks greatly contribute to a growing reader’s interest in books, it certainly doesn’t come as a surprise.
In this blog post, I have taken a closer look at how audiobooks can encourage kids to read books without a single written word. You will also find some handy tips below on how to raise an avid reader with a combination of books and audiobooks – all with the help of Yoto as the Official Audio Partner of World Book Day 2023!
Kids Reading Books: Audiobooks encourage interest in books
Even though audiobooks have been hugely popular in the last number of years there are still many who believe that listening to an audiobook doesn’t count as reading a book. While it is true that we don’t read physical words during an audiobook, what happens in the brain is quite similar to when we are reading a book. In fact, listening to a story activates the same areas of the brain as reading does, e.g. areas for linguistic processing and parts that are responsible for mental imagery (Research).
In addition to all the mental and developmental benefits of reading, audiobooks also offer very unique benefits. It gives children wider access to books and stories that they might not have been able to read independently otherwise, strengthening their confidence in their own abilities while expanding their vocabulary and interest in books. This is particularly true for children who might be struggling with their reading – while they learn at their own pace, they can still enjoy books and actively grow their love for reading. Even family story time can be greatly enhanced by audiobooks as not every adult is a confident reader, though with an audiobook parents can still enjoy this special time with their children.
Audiobooks for children learning to read
There is a common misconception that audiobooks will cause a delay when learning how to read. However, the opposite is true for all the reasons above and our family is one of many families proofing this to be true. Unlike our eldest, our second child struggled with her sounds and letters and after a while got really frustrated, especially, when she was confronted with her brother who is not much older than her but was reading very advanced books. To her it felt like failure – even though she was simply on a different schedule, learning at a different pace.
After we already had a Yoto Original that she enjoyed using, she asked for a Yoto Mini for Christmas and with that, her love for books and stories returned. While her brother would read in the evenings, she would listen to her books. She would hear the sounds, learn new words and build on her comprehension – all things that are necessary for reading.
Slowly she gained the confidence to try reading easy books while the audiobooks gave her the freedom to also listen to more advanced stories. What we found particularly helpful, was when she listened to stories we also have as books. That way she was already familiar with the storyline and the wording and it was easier for her to recognize words and sounds as a result. She is now at a stage where she would tackle any book that is appropriate for her age and even if she still sometimes struggles she doesn’t get frustrated anymore. Her Yoto Mini is also in use very often. Audiobooks and books are truly a winning combination when it comes to raising avid readers!
5 Tips on how to encourage kids reading books
1. Create a Reading Habit
Regular reading is the most important thing in encouraging a love for books in your children. Ideally, you’d aim for a daily dose of reading. While it is essential that kids are reading books independently it is equally crucial for them to be read to. Either by an adult or by listening to an audiobook – this way their curiosity, interest and especially their vocabulary can grow and their own reading skills can develop even further.
Set aside a time – if bedtime doesn’t work for you, it could be a quiet half an hour after school – where you read to your child or listen to an audiobook together. This will soon be such a big part of your daily routine that you will miss it if you have to skip it the odd time.
2. Provide a wide variety of options
Many adults are what they call ‘mood readers’. One day they are in the mood for a romance, the other they’d like to read a thriller – the same goes for kids reading books. They don’t necessarily want to read the latest Tom Fletcher book but might enjoy reading or listening to The Gruffalo like they used to when they were younger.
The key is to provide a wide variety of books to choose from. After a while, you will know your child’s preferences and can then explore certain authors or genres in a bit more depth.
EXTRA-TIP: FREE Yoto Chapters for World Book Day
Yoto has always been championing choice when it comes to audiobooks, offering a wide variety of audio cards and regularly providing access to sample content in the app. As the Official Audio Partner of World Book Day 2023 Yoto have made FREE audiobook content available in their app that can be played either with your Yoto or through your phone. So this is the perfect opportunity to dip your toes into Yoto audiobooks without having to buy a Player.
This includes: The Boy The Boy Who Grew Dragons (Chapter 1: Battle on the Bongle), Jolley-Rogers and the Monster’s Gold (Chapter 1: Bottles), The Hodgeheg and Other Stories (Chapter 1), Roald’s Dahl’s Matilda (Chapter 1). There’s also one full free story available from Fearless Fairy Tales – Story 1: Sleeping Brainy and a Wake Up Meditation.
Yoto has also committed to donating £1 from the sale of any one of 35 of their best-selling cards sold during the World Book Day period (Feb 16th-March 23rd 2023) to the World Book Day’s charitable mission to promote reading for pleasure and give every child and young person a book of their own. These best-sellers include cards from the following collections: The Gruffalo, Disney’s Encanto, The Tale of Peter Rabbit and other stories and The Elmer Collection.
3. Make Reading Fun
Reading shouldn’t feel like a chore or – worse – like school. For your child to learn to love reading they need to enjoy it. Some kids might naturally enjoy reading in their spare time, others might need a bit of encouragement.
This could be as simple as choosing books with engaging illustrations or creating a cosy reading nook. For extra fun, try and act out a chapter of a book or make connections between a story and real life.
I have set up a ‘book club’ with my children. They can stay up later on a Friday evening, we make hot chocolate, and cuddle up on the couch with our books. Before it is time for bed, we have a little chat about what we have read and where we think the story is going in each of our books. It is a great little tradition, the kids love it and it brings me to my next point:
4. Let your children see you read
Children learn best from watching other people do – so let your child see you reading your books. It will make reading seem like an enjoyable activity to them. You could also tell your kids when you have read a particularly good book and show them how much joy it has brought you.
My children see me read almost every day and when the topic of a book allows (not too much adult content), I share some of it with them. At the start, they have not shown much interest, but now they always ask what my book is about or want to know how much I have left until I finish it. Besides them seeing the joy books bring, they also sometimes witness me being disappointed by a book – which in my opinion is equally important. As they learn that they are also allowed not to like a book and don’t have to finish it if they just can’t get into the story. All in all, it makes for a wholesome reading experience!
5. Kids Reading Books: Join the library
When I think back to my own beginnings as a reader, it was the library that really fuelled my love for books. I loved the independence and responsibility I had with my own library card. To choose the books I wanted to, to read and in a way to care for them. It is a feeling I can still access to this day.
Joining your local library and visiting regularly could have similar effects on kids reading books today. The same goes, of course, for bookshops. With the World Book Day Tokens a small number of books will be available for free for kids to choose from and while there is nothing better than leaving the library or shop with a new book to read – the same is true for new audiobooks.
My kids love scrolling through the Yoto Store choosing what they would like to listen to next and then excitedly waiting for the postman to deliver their new cards (you don’t have to wait, you can play purchased cards straight away from the app) … and to me, it is that excitement, the anticipation, the joy and the love that make stories – books and audiobooks – to something a special and necessary part of not only childhood but life itself!